An essential part of preparing for any trip is making sure you have your paperwork in order. That includes things like IDs and other necessary travel documentation. So, it’s natural to wonder what type of identification will get you through the security line at the airport.
If you’re flying domestically, you shouldn’t need to show a passport. Currently, you can fly with identification that has your state, picture, and name. Examples include a driver’s license or a permanent resident’s card. However, the Department of Homeland Security has announced the REAL ID Act will take effect on May 3, 2023.
The Act will require travelers to present a REAL ID, current passport, federal PIV card, or US military ID. Without one of these forms of documentation, you won’t be permitted to board domestic flights. Read on to learn more about current and upcoming ID requirements before you head to the airport.
- Current ID Requirements
- Upcoming ID Requirements
- Using a US Passport and REAL ID
- Before You Go
- Check out our other entry requirement guides…
Current ID Requirements
US citizens do not currently need a passport for domestic flights. While most people present a state-issued driver’s license or a military ID, the Transportation Security Administration lists several acceptable forms of identification. Those are as follows:
- A state-issued ID or driver’s license
- Passport issued by a foreign government
- US passport
- DHS trusted traveler cards
- US passport card
- Border crossing card
- Permanent resident card
- Federally-recognized Tribal Nation or Indian Tribe issued card
- Veteran Health Identification Card
- State-issued enhanced driver’s license
- Canadian driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
- I-766 card
- Transportation worker ID
- US Merchant Mariner Credential
A valid and current US passport is only necessary if you’re flying internationally. The requirements for different destinations can vary. Some countries stipulate your US passport must be valid for a specific number of months after your travel dates.
If you plan to travel internationally or connect to an international flight through a domestic hub, double-check with the equivalent of the country’s state department before you go.
Some US citizens who travel domestically prefer to use their passports as their form of identification. If you’d rather use your US passport, go ahead and continue doing so. When REAL ID goes into effect, you may need it anyway.
Upcoming ID Requirements
In the spring of 2023, the implementation of the REAL ID Act means that domestic travelers will need to present a REAL ID to fly. A REAL ID contains a star on the card’s top. US citizens and residents can check to see if their state will be issuing driver’s licenses and ID cards that are REAL ID-compliant.
They can do this by either checking their current state-issued identification and asking the local motor vehicle department if the state issues REAL ID-compliant identification. Alternatively, people can check each state on the TSA’s website here.
Checking the TSA Website
When checking via the TSA’s website, clicking on a state will redirect you to the rules and procedures for obtaining a state-issued driver’s license or ID card. However, some of the pages do not explicitly indicate whether the state issues REAL IDs.
For instance, Colorado’s page lists the state’s regulations for issuing driver’s licenses and ID cards. The page also states how to get one for the first time and renew an existing ID. Yet, there is no mention of a REAL ID.
However, as Colorado’s residents with updated driver’s licenses know, they are REAL ID-compliant. This is why it’s best to call the local DMV to clarify and look at your existing identification. Some states also issue enhanced driver’s licenses to meet the TSA’s REAL ID requirements in 2023.
What if My State Doesn’t Issue REAL IDs?
If your state does not issue REAL IDs or enhanced driver’s licenses and you wish to fly domestically, you must obtain a US passport. The exception would be someone with another acceptable identification form, such as a US military ID card.
The only change on the list of sufficient identification is that state-issued IDs and driver’s licenses must be REAL ID-compliant. However, the list is subject to change between now and May of 2023.
States that Don’t Issue REAL IDs
According to the TSA, the following states issue enhanced driver’s licenses that do not contain a star on the top in addition to REAL IDs:
- New York
The TSA states that they will accept either form of identification for domestic flights once the REAL ID Act goes into effect.
Washington is a state that does not issue REAL IDs at all. However, the state does issue enhanced driver’s licenses. Again, the TSA states it will accept enhanced driver’s licenses from domestic travelers as an acceptable form of identification.
What About Temporary or Mobile Driver’s Licenses?
The TSA’s website states it does not accept temporary or mobile driver’s licenses. If you do not have a physical, permanent copy of your driver’s license, you will need another form of acceptable identification for domestic flights.
Using a US Passport and REAL ID
Yes, you can use a REAL ID or enhanced driver’s license to pass through domestic security checkpoints. However, once you enter a foreign country or return to the US, you must present a valid US passport.
Many travelers simply offer their US passports throughout the entire process, so they don’t have to get out or keep track of two separate forms of identification.
What Is a US Passport Card?
A US passport card is not embedded into a passport book with room for visas and stamps from foreign countries you enter. Instead, the card just contains the ID portion that you usually see in a passport book.
A US passport card is generally not valid for entry into foreign countries via air travel. However, the card is used for land border crossings and at seaports in various countries.
For example, if you’re traveling into Canada at the US border by car, you can present a US passport card rather than a complete passport book. Citizens under the age of 16 can get a US passport card that’s valid for five years. Individuals over the age of 16 can get a passport card that’s good for ten years, similar to a passport book.
How Can I Get a Valid US Passport?
To apply for a US passport for international air travel, you’ll need to fill out the US State Department’s form and submit supporting documentation that proves your citizenship status. Most people would submit their original birth certificate if they were born in the United States.
For citizens born outside of the US, you’ll want to bring:
- Certificate of Citizenship
- Certificate of Naturalization
- Consular Report of Birth Abroad
You’ll also need to submit photos of yourself that meet the State Department’s requirements.
Some drug stores offer passport photos as a service. You can walk in and ask to order passport photos. They’ll take your pictures and produce them according to official specifications. You can then pick up the photos when they’re ready and include them in the documents you send in with your application.
Submitting Documents for Your Passport
To submit your documents, you’ll need to find a passport service location and present a form of valid photo ID. If you don’t have a passport office or embassy near you, you can go to an acceptance facility such as a local post office branch.
Individuals renewing an existing passport before it expires or after a specific expiration window can apply by mail. In most cases, you can include your current US passport as proof of citizenship.
Processing Times for a US Passport
The processing times can vary according to where you submit your documents and whether you choose to expedite your application.
Renewing by mail or applying at an acceptance facility can take over 8 to 11 weeks or 5 to 7 weeks if you choose to expedite the application. Immediate and urgent travel needs can be accommodated at passport agencies within certain limitations.
When should I apply for my passport?
The State Department recommends applying for or renewing a passport as far in advance as possible. Processing times start when they receive your application and supporting documents, not when you mail them in or drop them off at an acceptance facility.
Peak travel seasons and mail delays can impact when you receive your passport and supporting documentation back, such as your birth certificate.
Before You Go
ID requirements for flying domestically within the US will continue to remain the same as it is now until May 3, 2023.
As of this date, TSA security checkpoints will be checking for REAL IDs or another form of acceptable documentation on their list. You will no longer be able to use your old ID unless it falls under one of the states that are accepted by TSA after May 2023.
While US passports are on that list, you won’t necessarily need one to board your domestic flight. As long as you have a REAL ID before your travel date on or after May 3, 2023, you should get through security like usual and board your flight. Bon Voyage!
Check out our other entry requirement guides…
Why not also check out our other guides to help you figure out where you do and don’t need a passport to travel to:
- Do you need a passport to go to Cuba?
- Do you need a passport to go to Baja California?
- Do you need a passport to go to Canada?
- Do you need a passport to visit Aruba?
- Do you need a passport to go to Hawaii?
- Do you need a passport to visit the Caribbean?
More about our TFVG Author
A seasoned traveller, Dad, and avid sports tourist, James foundered The Family Vacation Guide to share his expert vacation experiences- especially when it comes to being a travelling family man.
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